A/N – Welcome back to Children of the Dark. Year 4 is the last year the follows the books fairly closely, although there are differences as normal. Year 4 also sees the start of the romance between Hermione and Draco.

This year has 27 chapters and updates will be the usual, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Although with Christmas approaching, there might be an extra update in the later stages of the year.

This first chapter sets up what's going to be happening, and lays out the plans for the year ahead. I just hope people enjoy reading year 4 as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Hermione Granger sat in the back garden at Malfoy Manor, watching her two best friends flying around in the sky. Harry and Draco had been enraptured by the ongoing Quidditch World Cup, and were using every spare moment to recreate the skills they'd heard the players had used during matches. So far, neither boy had seen a match live, but that was about to change in just over a fortnight's time when the final of the tournament was played.

As a wealthy, influential wizard, Draco's father, Lucius Malfoy, had secured tickets for himself, Narcissa, Draco and a couple of Draco's friends. Of course, because of the secrecy surrounding who they truly were, Harry and Hermione couldn't be the friends Draco took with him to the match. To the outside world, Harry and Hermione were school rivals of Draco's, not his closest friends. To be honest the pair had both hoped they would be able to drop their act this year, but Voldemort had insisted they maintained their cover until he'd re-built a strong following and managed to get rid of Dumbledore.

Luckily, Harry and Hermione's other 'friend', Ron Weasley, had recently written to the pair asking them to spend the last few days of the holidays at his house. In his letter he also mentioned that his father, Arthur, had somehow secured himself some tickets for the world cup final and the Weasleys wanted Harry and Hermione to join them as they attended the match.

Harry and Hermione weren't particularly interested in going to stay with Ron and his family, but they understood it was a necessary part in keeping themselves above suspicion. Besides, the chance to get to go to the world cup final was incentive enough for the pair to agree to visit the Weasleys. While for Harry part of the appeal of going to the match was the quidditch itself, for Hermione it was all about her father, Voldemort. It was during the match that Voldemort was going to make his presence felt and Hermione hadn't wanted to miss it. But now, thanks to the Weasleys, she'd be there to see the entire thing without having to go through some sort of charade of attending the match in disguise.

"You should join us," Harry called as he expertly landed his broom next to Hermione.

"No thanks," Hermione replied as Draco landed on her other side. "You know how I feel about flying."

"I've never quite understood your hatred of flying," Draco remarked. "You learnt to fly when you were young, just like us."

"Yeah, when you were little you used to love flying with Dad," Harry added. He could clearly remember his father, Severus Snape, flying with Hermione when they were younger and his aunt loving every second of it.

"Flying with someone is different to flying on your own," Hermione replied with a shrug. "Besides, I was only little when I went flying with Severus. People change as they grow up."

"Maybe you just need to fly with someone again," Draco suggested. "The right someone of course," He added with a smile. "How about trying with me?"

"You?" Hermione raised an eyebrow at her gorgeous, blond best friend. "But you fly really fast. I don't like speed."

"I promise to go slow," Draco vowed as he held out his hand to Hermione. "Please, just see if you like it."

"Go on," Harry urged when Hermione hesitated. "Don't be a chicken, Hermione."

"I am not a chicken," Hermione retorted with a snort. Coming to a decision, she took hold of Draco's hand and pulled herself to her feet. "Do not do anything dangerous," She warned the blond as she warily eyed his broomstick.

"You'll be safe, I promise," Draco replied. "Trust me, Hermione."

"I trust you," Hermione said as she let Draco help her onto his broom.

Once Draco was also settled on his broom, arms wrapped firmly around Hermione in front of him, he kicked off from the ground. As they rose into the air, Hermione couldn't help but squeeze her eyes shut. She felt perfectly safe in Draco's grasp, but she couldn't help the overwhelming feeling that she was going to fall. She didn't know where the feeling came from, it had just appeared when she started to fly on her own and it had put her off flying ever since. Of course, she could fly, she just didn't like it and never did it unless necessary.

"Relax," Draco whispered in her ear. "I won't let you fall."

"I know you won't," Hermione replied as she tentatively opened her eyes.

Trusting Draco to keep her safe, Hermione let herself enjoy the stunning scenery from the sky. The manor always looked beautiful and historic, but from the air it was breath-taking. It also reinforced just how large the property and its land was. Hermione knew everything she could see clearly belonged to the Malfoys, and she just could see the outskirts of the land bordering the vast manor and its gardens.

"It's beautiful up here, isn't it?" Draco said.

"It is rather nice," Hermione conceded.

"You're still not keen on flying though, are you?" Draco asked with a chuckle.

"Not really," Hermione admitted. "I'd rather have my feet safely on the ground. But it is bearable with you in control."

"Anytime you want to go for another spin, give me a shout and I'll oblige," Draco said into Hermione's ear. "I'm more than happy to take control whenever you want."

Hermione felt the heat rise in her cheeks as Draco whispered into her ear. Nestled in her best friend's embrace, she remembered Harry's words of the previous year when he'd accused her of fancying Draco. Maybe there was some truth in her nephew's words after all. Maybe she was starting to see Draco as more than a friend.

"Do you want to go down?" Draco asked.

"In a few minutes," Hermione replied, not quite ready to leave her place in Draco's embrace.

Draco smiled into Hermione's brunette curls as he continued to slowly fly them around the manor's garden. Normally flying so slow would drive him mad, but it didn't seem like a problem when he had Hermione tucked in front of him. He could quite happily fly around at the same sedate pace with Hermione for several more hours. However, despite Draco's reluctance to let Hermione go, he eventually returned to the ground.

"Well?" Harry asked with a mischievous smirk as his two best friends alighted from Draco's broom. "Did you have fun up there?"

"I did actually," Hermione answered with a smile. "I felt very safe with Draco."

"I bet he had a nice solid grip on you," Harry said. "It looked like he was holding you nice and close."

When Hermione blushed, Draco reached out and punched his friend on the arm. "Stop it you git," He hissed.

"I was just saying that you wouldn't have let her fall," Harry protested as he rubbed at his arm.

"Of course you were," Draco muttered. "Now do you want to do anything else, or should we head inside?"

"I'm going inside," Hermione announced. "I've had enough fresh air for the day."

"See what you've done," Draco scolded Harry as Hermione hurried off inside the manor. "You've embarrassed her."

"She'll be fine," Harry said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I'm sure it'll take more than a few mild remarks to embarrass Hermione."

"I hope so," Draco replied as the boys set off to also head indoors. "I don't want her to start acting different around me because you're being a git."

"If she starts acting different around you, it's got nothing to do with me," Harry protested. "It'll be because she fancies you."

"Are you still on that?" Draco asked, rolling his eyes at his friend. Harry had mentioned his theory a few times, but Draco wasn't sure that Hermione saw him as anything other than her friend.

"Of course I am," Harry replied. "It's the truth. She fancies you, and you fancy her."

"Like you fancy Daphne Greengrass?" Draco teased, laughing when he caused Harry to blush lightly.

"That's not the same," Harry muttered. "I think Daphne is pretty, but I don't really know her. Besides, nothing can ever happen between us the way things are. At least you know the truth about Hermione, so you two can act on your feelings if both of you ever stop being so stubborn."

Draco shook his head and mumbled something about Harry keeping his nose out of his affairs as the pair entered the front room. Neither boy were surprised to see Narcissa and Beth in residence, as they knew the two witches had been chatting all afternoon, but they were surprised to find Voldemort, Severus and Lucius also sitting in the front room. As far as they'd known, Lucius was at work and Voldemort and Severus had been busy planning things for the quidditch world cup.

"Have you had fun, boys?" Narcissa asked as the two teenagers settled down on the sofa next to Hermione.

"Yeah, we've been practising our quidditch manoeuvres," Harry replied. "This year, I'm not going to let Draco beat me."

"Let me? You didn't let me beat you, I won on merit," Draco snorted in reply. "I was clearly the better seeker last year, and I will be again this year."

"Actually, neither of you will be playing quidditch this year," Severus said.

"Why?" Harry demanded. "What have we done wrong?"

"Nothing," Voldemort answered with a chuckle. "It has nothing to do with either of you."

"There won't be any quidditch at Hogwarts this coming year," Severus explained. "It's been cancelled as we're hosting the Triwizard Tournament."

"What now?" Harry asked with a frown. "I've never heard of it."

"It's an old tournament between the three largest wizarding schools in Europe," Voldemort explained. "There hasn't been a tournament for over a century due to the amount of fatalities in the tournament. However, it's being made safer and it's getting revived this year and Hogwarts is hosting it."

"So what do you want us to do?" Hermione asked, wondering if the tournament was another thing they could use to help her father's bid for power.

"Nothing," Severus replied with a smile. "You're all too young to be involved in the tournament. You should just enjoy the experience."

"And it will be a perfect time to make new friends," Voldemort added. "Students from both Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be at Hogwarts for the year. Some of them might be willing supporters for our fight against Dumbledore."

"Especially those from Durmstrang," Lucius said. "The headmaster, Igor Karkaroff, is an old friend of mine, and a Death Eater. I don't think he's given up the old ways, and hopefully he'll have passed his love of the dark arts onto some of his students."

"So, you just want us to make friends and have fun?" Draco checked.

"Yes. And behave yourself," Lucius warned his son. "As head of the governors, I've been invited to be a judge for the competition, meaning I'll be around school a lot. I don't want my son causing trouble and making me look bad, is that understood?"

"Of course, Father," Draco replied with a nod. "I'll be on my best behaviour."

"And that's what worries me," Lucius muttered, knowing just how mischievous his son could be even when he was supposed to be being good.

"Do we know anything about the new Defence Professor this year?" Narcissa asked.

"No," Lucius replied with a frown. "I've been speaking to Fudge, and he assures me he's going to take a special interest this year following the previous few year's debacles."

"But you're not so sure he will," Beth concluded, reading between the lines of what Lucius was saying.

"We all know how easy Fudge is to manipulate," Lucius said with a shrug. "And Dumbledore is a master manipulator. My bet is he still gets whoever he wants as Defence Professor."

"Will that be a problem?" Narcissa asked.

"It depends who he gets for the job," Lucius answered. "Hopefully I'll find out what's going on before school starts again."

While the adults started to talk about staffing at Hogwarts, Harry, Hermione and Draco took off and headed to Draco's room. Settling down on Draco's large four poster bed, the trio began to discuss what having the Triwizard Tournament at Hogwarts would mean for the upcoming year. In one way it was going to be exciting, having so many new people around and such adventure taking place under their noses, but in another way it was potentially dangerous. They would have to be more careful than ever with more people around the school, and Harry and Hermione would have to be careful who they befriended. They didn't want to befriend someone and accidently turn them to the light when they would have been an asset to the dark. However, overall they decided the tournament would be great fun and they were in for another rollercoaster year at Hogwarts.